Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for violence.
Devlin shifted on the frozen tree root, grunting as his frozen joints resisted the movement. For the thirtieth time he found himself wishing to be anywhere, even Hoden’s Pass, over this miserable place. At least at Hoden’s Pass there were bonfires.
“Speaking of,” he muttered to himself, “where is everyone. They should have been back.”
How long does it take to pick up a blasted log.
Devlin had intended to keep an eye from the top of the waterfall, but Potter’s Creek was no more than a smoldering cluster of blackened beams and melted metal. The last of the flames was flickering out in the breeze, making it impossible to see if the Sadorians had gone. But Devlin was sure they hadn’t.
They can’t leave survivors.
The crunch of snow below caused Devlin to push himself to his legs. He peered over the edge of the frozen cascade to spot a figure hunched over with something bundled in his arms. Sword on his hip Devlin tip-toed down the natural staircase formed by the roots. The figure had entered the cave so Devlin made no qualms about jumping the last few feet. He landed with a slight jingle of the armor and found the dark entrance. He gave one last look outside and then rushed in, blade drawn.
“Who goes there!”
The figure stumbled as the turned around. Whatever they were carrying banged against the wall and thudded to the ground. Devlin peered into the dark.
“Answer me!” he snapped, sword jabbed within an inch of the figure’s throat.
A raspy, young voice screeched “It’s me, Malcolm.” he fumbled over the words but got out “firewood”.
Devlin sheathed the sword.
Idiot. Obviously that’s what he was carrying. Blasted nerves.
“Erm, sorry. Can’t take too many precautions.” Devlin shook his head. He didn’t need to explain himself. “Pick that wood up and let’s get into the cave. Did anyone follow you?”
Malcolm hurried to grab the logs but as he bent down to pick up a third one the first two rolled out of his arms. Devlin growled and picked one up in each arm. Malcolm just manged to get the other two to the cave before letting them plop to the ground. In torchlight Devlin could see that his arms were barely the circumference of a mug.
“By Vorga, kid, when’s the last time you ate a full meal."
Malcolm turned to him with a sneer. “Just before you led a murderous group of barbarians into my town.”
Devlin’s eyes shot up. “Your town?” He was too surprised to be angry. The boy had attitude. Just like Carris. Must be something in the water.
“Yes. My father owns the pottery workshop which if you hadn’t blundered in here in the middle of the night raising fire, you would’ve seen supports most of these miserable people’s lives. That and Porgy,” he nodded with disdain in the direction of the cave entrance. “Speaking of which, where is he?”
Devlin frowned. “Porgy?”
Malcolm squinted. “Yes. Porgy. The fat rat. He was right behind me, huffing and puffing like a cow.”
That’s not good.
A sinking feeling overtook Devlin. “How close was he?”
“Like I said, right behind me.”
“Stay here,” Devlin said, dropping the logs where he stood.
He rushed through the narrow passage to the waterfall. A shout went up just outside the cave. Devlin’s heart dropped.
Hand on his hilt he rushed around the frozen fall an-
Something heavy collided with Devlin, barreling him back to the frozen ground. He wheezed out a cough as the breath left his lungs, and his brain went fuzzy. He could hear the footsteps on the snow and branches nearby.
Not Good, not good, not good.
“There’s more over here!” a shout went up. “Tell Eridan!”
Devlin rolled on his stomach, pushing himself to his feet and bolting for the cave entrance as he heard the whoosh of a blade missing its mark by inches. He practically bounced off the walls through the passage, entering the cave with a frantic cry.
“Get up! Wake up! Under attack!” his voice barely got out of his throat before he was turning to face the Sadorian who came rushing through the entrance. Devlin slid to his knees as the Sadorian entered the main room, ax raised to the ready. He never expected an attack from below him and before he could react Devlin’s sword was cutting through his thick wool jacked and jutting out his back. He wriggled for a moment, eyes wide with shock, a grunt escaping his lips although it looked as if a blood-curdling scream was welled up in the tension on his face.
Devlin pulled his sword free with a rush of blood, rolling to the side as the Sadorian crashed to the ground with enough force to squash a rock it seemed like.
Devlin spun to the townspeople who were groggily rising to their feet at the sound of fighting.
This is not going to end well.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Carris and Gwyn entered the crevice and crept along it, careful to avoid any roots or cracks in the ground. The way was wide enough for them to comfortable walk side-by-side for the most part. It began to wind to left, ever so slightly. A secondary passage jutted off to the right. Carris peered down the tunnel.
“Dead end.” Gwyn didn’t seem to care. Her eyes were flicking everywhere, even behind where they had just been.
“You’ll be glad to know that includes no bones,” Carris winked.
Gwyn shrugged her shoulders. “just wait,” she said, arms folded tightly. “We shouldn’t be doing this Carris. We should wait for the firewood and get some sleep.”
Carris continued moving ahead as the path bent more to the left. “What would we do in the meantime? It’s no colder here than back there.”
“There’s no monsters back there,” Gwyn muttered.
Didn’t see those Sadorians, did you? Carris thought, but refrained from voicing to Gwyn. She didn’t need anything else to worry about.
“Hey look,” Carris pointed ahead, “there’s another opening.” No light reflected off of the dark hole in the wall just slighting to their left. That meant no walls nearby. “Could be another cavern.” Her voice quivered with excitement although it was barely above a whisper. “Why have we never come back here before?” she said, the faintest of smiles prying at her lips.
“Because,” and Gwyn swung her arm back toward the way they came,” bones, remember? Carris come on, let’s turn around.”
Carris halted in front of the entrance. It was definitely big. Very big. Like staring into the night sky if one took out every twinkling star.
“Fine.” she sighed. sometimes she wished Gwyn had a little more adventure in her.
They began the walk back, quicker now with the confidence that there was nothing to stumble over. Carris did wrinkle her nose at the fact that there was a slight incline. “I hate hills.”
“You live on a mountain, and you hate hills,” Gwyn said.
“Was that sarcasm?” Carris smirked.
Gwyn let a slight smile tweak her frown, but it was mixed with a grimace. “Maybe.”
Carris laughed and it echoed along the walls, ending in a guttural sound. At least, that was an echo, Carris figured. It didn’t sound quite like an echo.
Great, Gwyn’s got me scared.
A yell echoed down the chamber as they neared the cave. That was no echo. The next scream was audible. “Where do we go?” It was Gwyn’s mother. Carris rushed to the cave and she and Gwyn came upon the scene of the townspeople in a frenzy. Near the entrance of the cave Devlin stood, sword gripped tight in both hands. Two Sadorians were collapsed on top of each other in a pool of blood nearby.
“They found us,” Carris mouthed. “She grabbed Gwyn’s mother, Mrs. Hevel, by the arm. “What happened?”
Mrs. Hevel was in hysteria, eyes wide, cheeks flushed with tears streaming down them. “I don’t know, they just found us. They’ll take my children.”
Carris grit her teeth and glanced back at the back entrance where she and Gwyn had just come from. “No. They won’t. Not tonight. We’re getting out of here.”
Gwyn grabbed Carris’s arms. “But the monster, Carris!”
Carris looked Gwyn in the eyes. “We have no choice.”